Are you dreaming of staying at a castle? A castle that’s hidden in the mountains, on the shore of a pretty lake. You can find it in Hungary’s Bükk National Park! And you can use it as your base to explore the park that’s one of the most amazing ones in the country.
Bükk Mountains offer countless well-marked, lovely forest trails, and some of the most romantic places in Hungary. There’s the palace hotel of Lillafüred to start with, but there’s also the hanging gardens, Szalajka Valley with its Veil Waterfall or the Bükk Plateau covered with wildflowers every spring. Historic castles and cities invite you for a bit of time-travel. Thermal spas and good wines make your time even more relaxed.
Feeling overwhelmed already? We’ve written this guide to help you have a great time in Bükk National Park and choose the activities you’ll enjoy the most. Feel free to pick the topics you’re interested in or browse through the full post:
Lillafüred, one of the most romantic places in Hungary
In the heart of the forests, on the shore of Lake Hámori lies the picturesque little town of Lillafüred and its famous palace hotel. This Neo-Renaissance castle was built between 1927 and 1930, and it operates as a 4-star hotel with a spa and wellness center today. Even if you don’t stay there, you can have a dinner in its Renaissance style Matthias Restaurant.
The palace hotel is surrounded by a large park and a hanging garden enclosed by Szinva and Garadna streams. You can get a view of a 20 metres high waterfall on Szinva Stream. Apparently, it’s the tallest waterfall in Hungary, and it’s also artificial – it was created when the palace hotel was built. (Well, Hungary is not the country of waterfalls, anyway. When it comes to water, our treasure is under the ground: thermal water.) But the park and the waterfall is open to anyone for a visit – and it inspired one of the most beautiful Hungarian love poems (Óda from Attila József – see it with English translation here).
Lillafüred has always been a holiday town, it offers a nature getaway to Bükk Mountains, and several trails start from the town. You can also take a boat ride on Lake Hámori, walk the loop trail around the lake or enjoy Hungary’s longest forest light rail line. Two fabulous caves are also nearby – more info on them later in this post.
One thing’s for sure, Lillafüred is the prettiest base to explore Bükk Mountains.
The best cultural sights in Bükk National Park
Natural and cultural sights co-exist in harmony in Hungary’s national parks, and Bükk is no exception.
Eger, the city of heroes and wine
One of the most popular Hungarian cities beyond Budapest is Eger, and there’s a reason. Located on the southwestern slopes of Bükk Mountains you find the most famous wine region in Hungary, and its center is Eger. The Valley of the Beautiful Women (Szépasszonyvölgy in Hungarian) near the city tempts you with about 200 wine cellars, many of them open for wine tasting.
But Eger impresses history nerds, too, with its middle age castle, Turkish Minaret, Baroque churches and one of the oldest libraries in Hungary. Read our complete sightseeing guide to Eger here!
Castle of Diósgyőr, Miskolc
Miskolc is not a typical city for tourists, it doesn’t have that historical old town and fabulous architecture as many other Hungarian cities. But it’s quite close to Lillafüred, and it has a historical district called Diósgyőr that’s home to a medieval castle.
The Gothic Castle of Diósgyőr was built after the 14th century, and it was a wedding gift for the queens of Hungary for a long time. Fast forward a few centuries (and the Ottoman invasion of medieval Hungary), and it was all in ruins. Visitors can see a restored state today, with Mediaeval-style furnished rooms.
Abbey church and Cistercian monastery ruins, Bélapátfalva
The church of the medieval Cistercian abbey of Bélapátfalva is located at the foot of Bükk Mountains and can be accessed by car. It’s a mix of Roman, Gothic and Baroque architecture style, and you can visit it for a small fee. Audio guide is available in several languages – check their visitor page for more details.
Next to the church you find the ruins of the monastery.
Noszvaj Castle, Noszvaj
This beautiful Baroque manor house was seriously damaged in the Second World War and was abandoned for a while. Renovations started in the 1950s, followed by several rounds. Today the castle museum with 5 furnished rooms can be visited. The furniture is not original, but age-appropriate, however, the most precious things to see inside are the Rococo frescos on the walls.
Noszvaj Castle has an English park with winding paths and large trees. Entrance ticket is needed both for the castle and the park. Moreover, you can choose to stay on the castle grounds: Tündérkert Hotel was opened in 2016, awaiting guests with elegant rooms and free castle access. The hotel is also family-friendly.
Noszvaj is only a short drive from Eger.
Astonishing caves to visit in Bükk National Park
Though when it comes to caves, the most impressive one in Hungary can be found in Aggtelek National Park, Bükk has some that’s worth exploring, too. The most unique natural treasures of the limestone mountains of Bükk National Park are actually its karst formations. Caves, shallow-holes and ravines in particular. And the most astonishing caves are quite easily reachable.
Szent István Cave
Only 10 minutes walk from the palace hotel of Lillafüred, there’s Szent István Cave. This pretty dripstone cave was discovered by accident when a dog fell into the cavern and people started to look for the source of the barking. It’s been open to the public since the 1930s, and can be visited on a guided tour.
The tour is not long, it’s a 350 meters walk taking you through some of the halls decorated by dripstone formations. Just have a spare warm layer if you visit in the summer, as the temperature is 10°C year-round.
A few minutes walk from the waterfall in Lillafüred there’s another spectacular cave: Anna Cave with its limestone structures and plant fossils. It might not be obvious to the average visitor, but Anna Cave has a unique geological value as there are only a few caves like this in the whole world. The uniqueness is in the way the cave was created: not carved by water, rather built by limestone that was dissolved from the stream.
The caverns of Anna Cave are connected by artificial tunnels and can be visited on a 30 minutes long guided walk.
Now here’s a cave you have to hike for. On the other hand, it doesn’t have opening hours as it’s open to anyone, any time.
You can find it just below the highest peak of Bükk Mountains, Istállós-kő (959 m). The cave bears the same name, and it was inhabited in the prehistoric times. It’s an archaeological site, and the jewels made of bones that were found there are among the oldest in the world. The findings are on display in the Hungaran National Museum in Budapest.
The best hikes in Bükk National Park
You can’t miss hiking when visiting this park! It has such a wide network of well-maintained, lovely forest trails, some of them quite romantic. Like the valley of Szalajka Stream or Bükk Plateau.
Szalajka Valley and Veil Waterfall, Szilvásvárad
Let’s start with the most romantic one: the easy, almost flat walk in Szalajka Valley that ends at the 17 meters high Veil Waterfall (Fátyol-vízesés in Hungarian). The limestone stairs of this waterfall are among the most unique karst phenomena in Hungary, and photographers also love the countless small cascades. Beware: it’s a popular place, avoid weekends if you can.
Do you want to simply be taken to this lovely waterfall? Use the light rail that operates between Szalajka-Fatelep and Szalajka-Fátyol-vízesés in the summer months. Check the schedule here.
Hike on Bükk Plateau
Bükk Plateau is a large karst plateau with rock formations and nice viewpoints – also, with millions of wildflowers in early spring. You can hike criss-cross on several trails to explore the area so you definitely need a map to keep track of them. (Here’s a free online map with all of the trails that can be found in Hungary. You’re welcome.)
Do you need ideas? You can start from Lake Gyári (Gyári-tó in Hungarian) in Bélapátfalva, then hike to Istállós-kő, Tar-kő, Pes-kő and Bél-kő (see the route here). They offer captivating views of the surrounding landscape. Or you can drive to Olasz-kapu from Szilvásvárad (it’s a toll road), and do a loop trail through Tar-kő, Vörös-kő-bérc, Cserepes-kő, Pes-kő and Bél-kő. Whatever you choose, we recommend allowing a full day to explore Bükk Plateau.
Rock formations of Szomolya
There’s an easy loop trail starting from the village of Szomolya that impresses with its rock formations, too. These rocks look like giant hives, and 100+ cabins were carved into them. Who carved them? What were these cabins used for? No one knows for sure, there are only guesses and legends. Some think that it was a mausoleum, and the cabins were to store urns. And some think that real hives were stored in those cabins. No proof was found though.
There’s an educational trail to visit the rocks of Szomolya, and it has recently been equipped with safer railing and stairs.
The best thermal spas in the region
Thermal water is one the most precious natural treasures of Hungary. And we have plenty! Thanks to this, almost every major – and a lot of smaller – Hungarian cities have their own famous thermal baths.
Eger has a reputable thermal spa, Eger Termál with its own authentic Turkish bath (Törökfürdő in Hungarian). Miskolctapolca Cave Baths has both a termal area and an outdoor water park (and, of course, caves!).
But the most unique thermal bath is the one of Egerszalók that’s built next to the salt hill with the limestone terraces. Limestone terraces like this can only be found at two other places in the world: Pamukkale in Turkey, and the famous Mammoth Hot Springs terraces in Yellowstone National Park. The area is a bit too developed for our taste, but it’s one of the most popular spa centers in Hungary. Its thermal water helps to cure many diseases, and it’s the thermal spring that formed the salt hill, too. There’s a footpath that enables you to have a closer look at the hill which is nicely lit up at night.
TOP 4 activities with kids
Take the light rail from Miskolc to Garadna through Lillafüred and the forests of Bükk. It operates year-round, but rides are available only on the weekends in winter.
Go cave hunting! Szeleta Cave is a short walk from Lillafüred on the Szinva Educational Trail. It’s an archeological site and is free to visit. Have a flashlight to explore it.
Take a stroll (or another light rail ride) in Szalajka Valley. The path is accessible all the way, so it’s suitable for strollers, too.
Spend a day in the Miskolctapolca Cave Baths. It’s a thermal spa with an outdoor water park in summer. Like its name suggests, some of the spas are actually located in caves, so it won’t only impress kids.
Is there a best time to visit?
Wildflower blooming on the Bükk Plateau is spectacular! Since Bükk has seasonal forests, most of the flowers have a chance to get some sunshine only until trees grow their leaves. It means that spring blooming is usually from late February to mid-April depending on the weather.
Snowdrops are among the prettiest flowers in Hungary, and they are the first to bloom. Often they stick their head right out from under the melting snow in February. Hundreds of primroses and lilies also stand proud, and carpets of purple and white Corydalis (we call them keltike and it means something like “just woken up”) cover the sunkissed meadows of Bükk Plateau.
However, trees will still be bald until about mid-April, so if you prefer hiking in the lush green forest, then come in May or June. July and August can be very hot (and crowded, too, due to school holidays), but September is also a great time for hiking and sightseeing. Then October or early-November comes with magical fall colors.
You can hike in Bükk National Park in winter, too, but that’s our least favorite time for the outdoors in Hungary. Not because of the cold in the first place (it can be cold, but you can dress up), but because snowless winter landscapes are not pretty. They’re colorless and somewhat depressing. And most winters are snowless, except for a couple of random days after sudden snowfalls.
Where to stay
Lillafüred and Szilvásvárad are the loveliest villages though. Then there are plenty of other smaller towns that are not so well-known, but their location is still very good to explore the park – like Noszvaj, Bélapátfalva or Bükkszentkereszt.
How to get there from Budapest
The most convenient way to get to Bükk National Park from Budapest is by car. It’s only 2-3 hours drive – mostly on highway M3 -, and we like having the freedom to get to any place in the area any time we want.
A road trip through Northeastern Hungary offers a lot, anyway: in addition to Bükk and Eger, there are Debrecen, the Tokaj wine region, Aggtelek National Park or Slovak Karst National Park and the lovely town of Kosice on the other side of the border in Slovakia.
What if you don’t have a car? Public transport is good enough to get you anywhere in Hungary. Miskolc and Eger, the two larger cities near Bükk, can be reached by direct trains from Budapest Keleti Railway Station. Most of the trailheads are in or near small towns and villages, and you can get there by bus. Bus line 1054 starts from Budapest, and stops not only in Eger, but also in a lot of smaller towns in Bükk. Lillafüred can be reached by city public transport from Miskolc (it’s part of Miskolc, officially).
Is Bükk National Park tempting you? Which attractions would you visit?
Disclosure: Please note that affiliate links are used in this post, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you make a purchase. If you are ready to book your trip and would like to support this website in some way, here’s your chance. Thank you! 🙂
This post was updated in July 2021.
200+ Travel Tips For Hungary
Get our free e-book and join the community!
Want to find a place for travel in your life? Want to find your happy places – and happy trails? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter where we share insider tips, updates and more. Get our e-book with all the tips you need before visiting Hungary as a first gift.
Travel tips and resources
It takes effort and careful planning to get the most out of your vacation days each year. We help you with complete travel itineraries, based on our own experiences. See them here!
- Flights: find the best flight deals with Skyscanner, Kayak and Google Flights. Save money: be flexible with your flight dates & fly with carry-on only.
- Accommodations: Find great hotel and apartment deals with flexible cancellation policy on Booking.com. Book hostels on Hostelworld.
- Car rentals: use RentalCars.com and Kayak to get the best rates on car rentals.
- Tours: Book guided tours with GetYourGuide, Viator and Civitatis.
Give travel experiences as a gift with Tinggly.
Traveling with kids?
We believe that travel is not only possible, but it’s fun with a kid, and helps strengthen our bonds through experiences and challenges that we get through together. Read our family travel tips and destination specific guides here!